The Arizona Legislature will make the Tough Choices

It is no consolation that virtually every other state in the nation is facing heap big budget deficits, nor is it that California is in worse shape than we are. It is the fact that, unlike California, there is hope for Arizona.

Both California and Arizona are in dire budgetary straits as a result of Democrat wild overspending. Hold it! I know what you’re thinking, “but the Republicans have controlled the state house for over forty years, how is it the fault of the Democrats?” Well, it is true that the Republicans have held a majority for decades, but that is not the same as control. During the Administration of Governor Napolitano, the Democrats were able to lure a number of squishy Republicans in to their camp, creating a virtual Democrat majority. Here’s an AZcentral.com blurb from from 2008 that includes Steve Gallardo’s famous quotation:

“I like being in the majority.” – House Minority Whip Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.
For the second year in a row, a budget backed by the minority Democrats and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano passed, with the help of a handful of Republicans.

So here we are.

What has changed in the Arizona legislature since the last election cycle is the nature of the Republicans. The squishes are pretty much gone. The Republicans are in firm control of both houses. Republicans now in the legislature will not be seduced, cajoled, or intimidated by the Democrats, the Arizona Republic, or the Arizona Daily Star from cutting spending back to levels commensurate with revenues. The sweeping of funds, accounting tricks, property sales, even Governor Brewer’s sales tax increase were not enough to close the huge deficit gap.

Be prepared for much hysteria, name calling, and condemnations from the affected parties. Every agency will claim that any cuts will result in apocalyptic future disasters from short sighted cutting of “investment”.

University of Arizona president Robert N. Shelton is an example. In his recent State of the University address, he used phrases like “When malevolent people talk about wanting to dismantle and destroy great universities,” and “When you listen to those guys, it’s like “Groundhog Day” meets “A Nightmare on Elm Street”! – Bill Murray meets Freddie Krueger. (And please understand, I’m playing the Bill Murray character – I keep repeating myself, and they keep slashing people with knives!)”. Bear in mind that this is the language of a fancy pants $550,000 a year university president at an official function.

Shelton’s miffed because his state general fund appropriation has been cut by about $100 million over the last few years. He adds, “yet we have key legislators who have stated publicly – with straight faces, I might add – that we have been untouched and spared any significant cuts…”

I suspect that you may be wondering how the “untouched and spared any significant cuts” can be made? Or maybe you just think that Shelton is right and the legislators are lying morons. Well, we can always check the facts. The Fiscal Year Reports from the Arizona Legislature web site show the state general fund cuts in appropriations to the University of Arizona as Shelton stated, but the more relevant figures are those showing total revenue; FY 2007 – $1.211 billion, FY 2008 – $1.266 billion, FY 2009 $1.305 billion, FY 2010 – $1.333 billion. Yes, it’s true, though the state appropriations make up a smaller percentage of total revenues, the total revenues of the University of Arizona have increased annually over the last few years. You might even say that it has been “untouched and spared significant cuts”.

So, if you are a legislator, and you can cut an appropriation to an agency without reducing its total revenue, might that agency be a good candidate such cuts?

The real beauty here is that the legislators stated the facts, did the right thing, and are not intimidated by deceitful university presidents or anyone else. This is what Arizona needs if we are to fix the budget, recover and prosper.

And what of California? Well, the people of the Golden State elected the same people who precipitated its financial crisis. The Democrats still have a lock on the legislature, and with the election, yet again, of Governor Jerry Brown, there appears to be no adults in authority.

So be grateful that there is hope and change in Arizona, and pray for California.

University of Arizona Clings to an Archaic Understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Though the University of Arizona is an institution of higher learning, it appears that the students and faculty are decades behind in regards to the cultural and legal progress of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA).

It was back in 1987 that the state of Florida took the lead in passing a new type of concealed carry law. Concealed carry permitting laws that existed prior to that time were actually remnants from the Jim Crow era; permit applications had to be approved by either the local sheriff, judge, or magistrate with no provision for appeal – good luck if you were a man or woman of color. The new permit laws were written so that anyone who met the criteria, “shall” be issued a permit. When the word “shall” is used in the law, it means it must happen, no discretion here, no denying people of color, political adversaries, mother’s-in-law, etc.

Opponents of such laws warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, they never happened. The idea caught on, and Arizona passed a similar bill in 1994. Opponents of the law warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, you know the rest. The phenomenon swept the country, and now 45 of the 50 states have “shall issue” laws of some type.

Intrigued by this wave of new laws, research scientist John Lott (University of Maryland, College Park, University of Chicago, Yale University, and the Wharton School studied crime statistics from vitually all the counties in the United States. He published the results of this work in the book More Guns, Less Crime. According to Lott, enactment of such laws leads to a significant reduction in violent crime, with a slight increase in property crime. Oddly, Lott’s research received no serious challenged by opponents; rather, they generally chose to attack him personally. Ad hominem attacks are like shooting heroine, it feels really good when you’re doing it, but regular use makes you dull, frustrated, and hollow.

The next milestone was the 2008 United States Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v Heller. The court ruled that outright bans on firearms are unconstitutional because the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an individual right. The case was followed by a wave of challenges to onerous restrictions on gun ownership.

It is interesting to note that the Obama administration, and the Democrat controlled congress, have made no attempt – to my knowledge, not even a mention – of any “gun control” initiatives or goals. Actions not taken are as telling as those that are.

So, both the people, and current legal thought, have evoled into a much more liberal (in the classic sense) view of the right ot keep and bear arms. Consistent with this new enlightenment, the Arizona Senate introduced SB 1011. According to the fact sheet, the bill, “Allows a faculty member with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW permit) to possess a concealed firearm on university or college grounds.” This seems like a rather mild adjustment in these enlightened times, particularly in light of the fact that the universities would still have a more oppressive environment that the state as a whole.

Alas, the University of Arizona is a couple of decades behind the progressive (in the literal sense) thought of today. It became a hot topic with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA). At a regular meeting, one day after the bill’s introduction, members showed up ready to pass a resolution against the bill. The Arizona Daily Wildcat reported Senator Daniel Wallace saying, “The overwhelming majority of students I’ve talked to are against having guns on campus,” and, “The faculty shares that opinion.”

Really? From where did this archaic mindset come? I think that there is a clue in Wallace’s statement, “The faculty shares that opinion.” Could it be that, for many faculty members, time stopped somewhere back in the late 60’s or 70’s when they entered academia as a career? Are students learning to pay attention, apply thought and reason, or are they being indoctrinated in politically correct thought that has been long abandoned by everyone from the courts, to the politicians, to the people?

We are well into the 21st century. For the benefit of the students, I hope the universities will decide to join us.

Property Rights, Markets, and Feldman’s Fight for Neighborhood Preservation

In the early part of the twentieth century, the University of Arizona occupied a quaint, two story, brick building now referred to as “Old Main”. Meanwhile, not far away, a number of “sanatoriums” were being built for TB patients from across the country. The neighborhood north of Speedway was nicknamed “Lung Hill.” Today the University of Arizona has metastasized into a gigantic sports, research, and educational facility with an international student body that numbers around 38,000. “Lung Hill” is now the Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association, in which many of the sanatorium buildings, along with homes of the same vintage, still stand. The Feldman’s neighborhood is primarily residential, composed of both owner-occupied and rented houses, with a mix of university employees, students, and others.

As the university student population has ballooned – doubling over the last few decades – the market for student housing has increased concomitantly. Naturally, areas around the university have seen an increase in student residents. Often a parent would lease, or even purchase, a house near the university and the child, along with any number of friends, would occupy it. Eventually, developers began to respond to the market demand by building rental structures designed for the student customer – they were nicknamed “mini-dorms”.

Long established residents of these neighborhoods suddenly realized that they did not live in gated communities, and as Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin'”. The folks in Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association were on the cutting edge of these changes, and they did not like it one bit. Seeing, or seeking, no alternative, they sought the force of government to freeze time and turn their neighborhood into a preserve.

Of course, a villain was necessary. The obvious one is the University of Arizona. Its inability to provide accommodations for its students is the root of the problem. The behavior of students themselves, not their existence, is the problem itself. One might even blame the residents themselves for not protecting the neighborhood with extreme zoning before now. Somehow, all these parties were overlooked, and the mini-dorm developer, Michael Goodman, became the bad guy.

Look, I would not want affordable student housing in my neighborhood either. However, I find it hard to condemn a developer who is satisfying a need in the community while staying within zoning laws and codes. He also purchased the land he wished to change. He did not seek the help of city government to force a change on other people’s property. A primary function of property rights is to settle the question of land use. If you want to call the shot, you buy the property. The alternative is large protracted fights over land use with some arbiter assigning a solution that pleases nobody. The idea of ownership also tends to direct land to the best use. For example, a couple with children would be willing to pay more for a four bedroom house than a retired couple, so they each end up in suitable houses. In fact, professionals often buy properties on which to build structures to satisfy a local need. Then they become the villain.

While Feldman’s may have no choice but to resort to extreme zoning – the approval of the development manual and NPZ overlay – other neighborhoods might take some preemptive action. Imagine a neighborhood that came together and pooled some resources and bought up the properties that came up for sale. Once there was a consensus, the residents could contract with each other to adhere to guidelines regarding the properties that went above and beyond the zoning. They could get the city to give them the streets and public areas, abandon the rights of way, etc. They could limit access, take responsibility for the roads, and be at peace with each other, like a gated community.

I know that gated communities are not at all “cool”, but we’re not posing here. Look, people talk a lot about loving “diversity”, but they don’t mean it. I’m sure many of the residents of Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association hold “diversity” close to their hearts, until it arrives on their streets. They then clamor for tighter zoning. The point of zoning laws, my friends, is to prevent diversity. No family wants to live by a meat packer, a mini-dorm, or a 24-hour coffee shop.

Hopefully, the example of Feldman’s will lead to securing neighborhoods through co-operative rather than combative methods.